August 26, 2017 – Glen Helen Festival Grounds – Devore, CA. 40 bands. 4 stages. 104 degrees.
It’s Not Dead 2 was not as well attended as it’s 2015 forerunner. Why? Was it the temperature outside? Was it the line up of bands? Was it the ticket prices? Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, 2015 basically had 4 headlining acts (Bad Religion, Descendents, NOFX and Pennywise) while this year only had 2 (Rancid and Dropkick Murphys). Is it because those 2 headliners just completed a US tour, playing shows within a few 100 miles of the Festival venue (San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego) giving people other options to see them? 2015 was held in October, when the temperatures were SLIGHTLY cooler than this year’s August date. 2015 had 3 stages, 2017 had 4. I don’t know the answer, but I know that I had fun and saw some great bands.
I arrived at 9:30 am to set up and assist with the Steal Music Buy Art booth we had in the “Art’s Not Dead” tent.
First band of the day for me was 12:30pm – CH3. CH3 has been great since the early 1980’s and they are still great now. Mike and Kimm can still kick ass. Plus they just released a new record “Put ‘Em Up” available here: CH3
The Interrupters were next on my list and were over on the main stage. These guys are always on the road. They are a hard working younger ska/punk band that people are expecting to appeal to the masses. They’ve got all the elements; they have good, sing-a-long songs, great stage presence and they work their asses off. They are heading off on a US Tour very soon and bringing along one of my favorite bands Sharp/Shock as the opener. Good choice Interrupters!
Next up in my day was True Rivals on the small stage. I saw these guys at the Hi Fi Rock Fest in Long Beach a few years ago and thought they were great. They don’t play around too often as I think the guys are all in other bands (Unwritten Law, Briggs) but I was happy to catch them. They’re a high energy melodic, punk rock band with catchy songs. Their buddy Joey Briggs joined them on stage doing vocals and playing bass for a couple songs. Their new record “Look at Me” came out the day before the festival … you can find it here: True Rivals
GBH was next for me on the main stage. Honestly, I’ve never loved GBH. When a lot of my friends were turning toward GBH and Discharge in the ’80’s I was listening to Stiff Little Fingers and Generation X. I was looking for melody not more distortion. I have to admit though, every time I see them playing a festival, I run over to their stage to get a good look. I have to hand it to Colin, the singer of GBH, for being the only person in a leather jacket in the burning afternoon sun. LIVE IT DOOD! GBH also has a new record out, with great cover art by Tokyo Hiro … Check it out here: GBH – Momentum
Just before seeing GBH, an old friend stopped in our art booth, so after seeing GBH I rushed over to shoot his band, Down By Law. Down By Law’s leader, Dave Smalley, is loaded with punk rock cred and is the nicest guy on the planet … that’s a great combo. Just in case you don’t know, Dave’s credits include: DYS, Dag Nasty, ALL, Down By Law (and probably more that I’m forgetting, but isn’t that enough?) Cheers Dave … keep rocking!
There are 3 bands that I wish I had time (and energy) to shoot … 2 of them played right around this point in my day … I missed the Selector and OFF! But I did catch one of my all time favorite bands, The Buzzcocks. They sounded great. They played all the songs I wanted to hear and kicked ass! Peter Shelley and Steve Diggle still got it, no doubt about that. It’s hard to shoot a band while you’re singing and bouncing around like an old lunatic … But I tried:
After the Buzzcocks, I hustled over to the Cuckoo’s Nest stage (all of the stages were named after infamous punk rock venues in Los Angeles, Fenders was stage #2 and Olympic was #3) The main stage, with it’s rotating surface created for quick band change-overs was a co-tribute to Gabby Garborno (RIP) and Gary Tovar.
Anyway, so after the Buzzcocks I ran over to catch Love Canal … I’m sure I’ve seen Love Canal before – They played a lot back in the old days and always seemed to be on great bills … So I’m SURE I saw them … But I don’t remember … But I remember this one … It was fun to see a bunch of guys my age still rocking and having fun. They were great, old-school punk rock. They have a new record out on Hostage Records of which Arab promised me a vinyl copy that I never got (hint, hint). Pick up their new LP here: LOVE CANAL
From the Cuckoo’s Nest I headed back over to the Olympic Stage for the US Bombs. I have never had the chance to photograph the US Bombs in any of their incarnations or any of Duane Peters’ bands for that matter. So I didn’t want to miss this. While I was in the photo pit waiting for the Bombs (and wondering if anyone had actually seen Duane) I was able to grab a few long shots of the Casualties over on the neighboring (Fenders) stage.
and then Duane limped onto the stage using a cane with a skateboard wheel used as the bumper at the bottom of the cane. The Bombs were pretty good. I thought Duane was good and the band he had backing him played the songs of the Bombs pretty well … I was happy to see them and especially Duane, on stage. I hope this inspires him to get healthy and continue playing.
This was a long day … Making for a long post … I’m tired … I wonder if anyone if still reading this … I hope you’re looking at the pictures at least.
The VooDoo Glow Skulls were next up on the Fenders stage but the lighting was really tough for them. The sun was almost down (finally) but the lights weren’t on yet so the stage was very dark. I don’t think I’ve seen them before – they were a lot more punk rock than I expected, I always thought they were a ska band … I mean they have a 3 piece horn section and a lot of my ska loving friends love them … and they definitely are a ska band, but a high energy, up-tempo, punk rock ska band …
Finally, the sun is down, the temperature has dropped at least 10 degrees, the stage lights are on and it’s time for the headliners. As the main stage rotated to allow the Dropkick Murphys to face the crowd I was immediately struck by the size of the multi-level stage. It was very grandiose, a little “showy” and frankly kinda weird. The do have at least 6 people in the band, so I understand that they need some room, but this was a little much. The stage aside, these guys are good. From the first note you could tell that the headliners were here. They were loud and tight and heavy. They immediately raised the bar higher than any of the early bands could even dream of reaching. These guys are pros, and you could feel it as soon as the stepped on stage.
When I got to the photo pit for Rancid, it was so crowded that I couldn’t get in. Honestly, by that time, I had been at the venue for 12 hours and for 6 hours that day before (setting up the booth) and I was exhausted … So I didn’t try as hard as I could have to push through and get into the photo pit, but I was done for the day, I was beat … and I still had a booth to break down. So, I got no photos of Rancid … But they sounded good and I was very happy to hear Lars give Gabby some love and respect from the stage … It’s well deserved and I’m glad that Lars gave Gabby his due. So, even though there’s no way in hell Lars will be reading this, thanks man, it did not go unnoticed. It was a nice way to close out my night.
This guy was in the front row …